Toespraak Amerikaanse Ambassadeur Broas

Gepubliceerd: zondag 16 november 2014

De Amerikaanse Ambassadeur Broas was één van de aanwezigen bij de boekpresentatie op 5 november. Broas werd als eerste een exemplaar van het boek Van Alabama naar Margraten overhandigd. Voorafgaand daaraan gaf hij de onderstaande toespraak.

Gouverneur Bovens, Vice-Mayor Custers, Vice-Mayor Scheid, Mrs. Janice Wiggins, Mieke Kirkels, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor for me to be here today, to pay tribute to the extraordinary sacrifices made by Dr. Jefferson Wiggins and his fellow African-American servicemen in Margraten, exactly 70 years ago. We can only imagine what the gravediggers of Margraten had to endure. We are forever in their debt.

kirkels500It was a special privilege for me to meet Mrs. Wiggins earlier today. The legacy of her husband has been captured for generations to come in this great new book by Mieke Kirkels.

Dr. Wiggins' life tells us the history of the incredible dedication of so many African-American soldiers to the U.S. Army, and of the many hardships they had to endure. But it is also an account of our journey as a nation, a testament to our continual struggle for the protection of civil and human rights.

Dr. Wiggins grew up in poor, rural Houston County, Alabama in the 1930s and early 1940's. Jim Crow laws across the South segregated public life. The Army was no exception. African-American soldiers served in separate units during the Second World War and were mostly assigned to supportive services. They were not allowed to eat, sleep, or fight alongside their white countrymen. They were, however, tasked to bury the dead in the cold wet soil of Limburg in the late autumn of 1944.

Many African-American servicemen who returned to the United States after the war no longer accepted being treated as second class citizens. These veterans were trailblazers for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's. Like Dr. Wiggins, who joined the Army with almost no formal education, many black soldiers had took advantage of educational opportunities during their service in the Army, and they were now in a position to pursue professional careers with the help of the G.I. Bill.

Public resentment towards Southern segregation began to spread. In 1948, President Truman desegregated the Armed Forces and the Civil Service. After nearly two decades of struggle during the civil rights movement, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act into law, ending a long history of legal suppression of African Americans in the United States.

This legislation, of course, did not end discrimination in the United States. But we have made substantial progress over the past 50 years in our struggle to end racial discrimination.

Upon his first return to the cemetery to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in 2009, Dr. Wiggins reflected on being an African American in U.S. society and the impact this had on his work in Margraten. He said:

"We had been commanded to give respect to those we could not even associate with in life. But on that first day, we realized that whatever life experiences we'd had as African Americans, this was our obligation – to set aside our prejudices, our colors, and our fears, and give to these young Americans the honor, the respect, and the dignity they so well deserved."

In recognition of Dr. Wiggins' service, President Obama wrote him a letter before he left America for that commemoration ceremony five years ago. The President wrote:

"You were part of great milestones in our Nation's history. Your generation stood for the triumph of freedom and liberty over hatred and intolerance, and your story is an important piece of the American narrative."

Thank you, Mieke Kirkels, for your efforts to keep the narrative of the "Fields of Margraten" alive, and for shedding light on such an important part of our shared Dutch and American history.

Thank you.

Bron: Amerikaanse Ambassade Den Haag

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U kunt het boek Van Alabama naar Margraten bestellen via de website. U betaalt € 19,95 per boek (exclusief verzendkosten van € 4,00, ongeacht het aantal boeken). Klik hier om het boek te bestellen. U kunt het boek ook aanschaffen bij een van deze verkooppunten.



Van Alabama naar Margraten
Postbus 22
6269 ZG Margraten

Anderen over het boek

"Wilskracht, doorzettingsvermogen én zelfbewustzijn vormen de rode draad in de levensloop van Jeff, die zijn eigen American dream creëert: van grafdelver op de Amerikaanse begraafplaats in Margraten tot leraar en ere-doctor. Met hart en ziel zet hij zich in voor gelijkberechtiging van de zwarte Amerikanen. Een ontroerend en indrukwekkend verhaal."

- Frans Roebroeks